Whether you plan on skiing the Matterhorn or exploring the historical Basel Munster church, you’ll need to organize your travel money before you arrive in Switzerland. If you’re not sure where to start, use our travel money guide to compare money options and plan your budget before your big vacation.
Because Switzerland isn’t part of the European Union, they use the Swiss franc instead of the euro. As a political and economic center of Europe, Switzerland boasts a huge international population with banking and financial services the center of their industry. You won’t have any problems finding ATMs, banks and merchants that take credit cards all over the country. Most businesses accept Mastercard and Visa, and you’ll find less that will take your American Express and Diners cards. Read on for a comparison of products you can use in Switzerland without the fees for international transactions.
Our picks for traveling to Switzerland
Our pick for travel credit card
American Express® Gold Card
Finder rating: 4.6/5
Our pick for multi-currency debit card
Finder rating: 4.5/5
Our pick for 0% transaction fee debit card
Finder rating: 4.6/5
What's in this guide?
- Travel card, debit card or credit card?
- These are your options for spending money in Switzerland
- Compare travel credit cards
- Swiss currency
- Buying Swiss francs in the US
- ATMS in Switzerland
- Cash pickup services in Switzerland
- How many francs do I need to bring to Switzerland?
- Exchange rate history
- Our latest travel deals
Travel card, debit card or credit card?
There are a number of ways to access your money when you’re on vacation, and it’s best to use a combination of of products. Credit cards give you money when you need it and can cover you in a financial emergency. Debit cards are good for access to your cash, without all the traveling fees.
Whether you’re heading to Switzerland to hit the slopes or simply to enjoy the culture, be sure to get your spending budget in order before you leave so you can hit the slopes with no worries.
Visa and Mastercard branded cards are accepted in more places than American Express and Diners cards throughout Switzerland. Look for logos at ATM point of sale terminals to be sure. Switzerland has a modern banking economy — it is their primary industry — so you won’t need lots of cash on your travels. If your card has a chip you’ll be able to make contactless payments.
These are your options for spending money in Switzerland
Using a credit card
A travel credit card gives you access to a line of credit, and you won’t pay for currency conversion when you transact in francs. Compare cards that offer no foreign transaction fees and offer rewards. We don’t advise making a withdrawal on credit as cash advance charges apply and you’ll start paying an APR the day the transaction is made. Consider travel extras such as insurance or an increased rewards for travel when you’re comparing credit cards to use overseas.
- Tip: Some providers waive cash advance charges when you keep a positive balance and make ATM withdrawals. Find out which providers let you do this and which won’t.
- No currency conversion fees
- Features such as insurance or reward points earning
- Some offer no foreign transaction fees
- You’ll pay a lot for a cash advance
- Rewards program may cost more than they are worth
Using a debit card
A debit card lets you spend and withdraw in Switzerland like you would at home. Find a debit card that waives the international ATM withdrawal fee and you can make free ATM withdrawals when you use an ATM offered by a Swiss bank — European and Swiss banks don’t charge ATM fees. The Charles Schwab could be a handy product to use in Switzerland, With no conversion or ATM fees, this card can save you money.
- Tip: Make sure your debit card has a chip to avoid situations where you card won’t be accepted.
- Secured with a chip and a PIN technology
- In case you lose your card, block transactions with a phone call
- It’s easy to find ATMs in Switzerland
- Comes with a back up card
- Secured with a chip and a PIN technology
- Money back guarantee for fraud
- No back-up card if you lose it on your trip
- Some charge currency conversion and ATM fees
Using a prepaid travel card
There are no prepaid travel cards that hold Swiss francs. Usually, the advantage of these cards is you can hold multiple foreign currencies at a time and save on currency conversion fees. A travel card makes sense if you’re spending your time in the Eurozone (France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain etc) and the UK, but if you’re spending the majority of your time in Switzerland, you’ll pay for currency conversion when you spend in francs.
The currency conversion fee can be double the charge applied to most credit cards and debit cards. Travel money products can charge the Visa or Mastercard rate plus 4.5% for currency conversion and charges for international ATM withdrawals. So, regardless of which product you choose, you’re going to pay for currency conversion, international ATM withdrawals — or both when you use a travel card in Switzerland.
- Hold multiple foreign currencies at a time
- Save on currency conversion fees
- Not able to load Swiss francs
- Pay a currency conversion fee to use USD
- You’ll pay ATM fees
Paying with cash in Switzerland
It’s cheaper to get your cash exchanged in Switzerland than in the US, and even cheaper still with a no-fee ATM card. If you do have US dollars or euros you need to exchange in Switzerland, bureaux de change outlets can be found at airports and train stations. You can also change your money at a bank, which will give you the most competitive rate for changing cash, and shouldn’t charge a commission either.
- Tip: Some large retailers will accept euros — though a majority will not. If you use euros, you will get a worse rate than paying with the local currency.
- Greater payment flexibility
- More difficult to manage expenses
- Higher risk of theft
Using traveler’s checks
Traveler’s checks are an outdated way to travel with money — it’s far easier and cheaper to use an ATM. If you do have traveler’s checks, you can cash your them at exchange offices in train stations or a bank. Exchange offices offer the same rates as banks; however they may charge a commission for the transaction.
- Tip: Banks are open during regular business hours Monday to Friday: 8:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m.
- Accepted at most banks and hotels
- Can be costly with initial purchase charges
- Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks
Compare travel credit cards
The main banks in Switzerland are:
- Credit Suisse
- Swiss Raiffeisen
- Zurich Cantonal Bank
- Julius Baer
- Banque cantonale de Genève
- Migros Bank AG
- Bank J. Safra Sarasin
- EFG International
Buying Swiss francs in the US
It’s cheaper to exchange your US dollars once you arrive in Switzerland, either at a bank or an ATM. If you do want francs before you arrive you can get money changed at any of the providers listed below. There are ATMs at every international airport (Zurich, Geneva, Basel etc), which should eliminate the need to change currency in the US.
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ATMS in Switzerland
Cash pickup services in Switzerland
How many francs do I need to bring to Switzerland?
Yes, the rumors are true, Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit, and, according to some estimates, the most expensive country in the world to live. You can plan to spend anywhere from $75 to $400 a day, depending on what adventures you seek.
$45–$100 per night
|2 star hotel|
$100–$250 per night
|5 star hotel|
$250–$800 per night
|Meals||Swiss sausage sandwich plus a pint of beer (street food)|
|Noodle house (restaurant)|
$30 per dish
|Michelin star restaurant|
$100 or more per person
|Activities||Rent a bike and ride around the city|
Rental is free + $30 deposit
|Entry to the Kunsthaus Gallery|
$35 per person
|50-minute massage for 2 at exclusive day spa|
*Prices are approximate and based on summer seasonality and are subject to change
Exchange rate history
The Swiss Franc is one of the most stable currencies in the world and definitely one of the most valuable. Since the Global Financial Crisis, the value of the US dollar has dropped against the Swiss franc. The past few years, 1 USD is worth about 0.90 CHF.
Case study: Bart snowboarding in Verbier, Switzerland
Bart goes to Switzerland every couple of years to snowboard. He splurges on a six day heli-skiing package in Verbier, which is recognized as providing the best off-piste snowboarding in the world. He says he gets to the mountain from Geneva and, when he’s done, takes a little side trip to Berlin and then to Paris before flying home. He uses Swiss francs in Switzerland and euros in Germany and France. He spends about three weeks to a month in Europe each time he visits.
What’s your recommendation about travel money for Switzerland?
Bart says if you’re conscious of cutting out the fees for international transactions, you can’t find a better card than the Charles Schwab debit card, which is the account he’s had for years. It doesn’t charge international ATM fees, currency conversion fees or an account keeping fee.